Languages of Tripura

About Tripura

The state of Tripura is located in the north eastern part of India. It is one of the eight North Eastern states. It falls in to the category of Oldest States, it had been mentioned in the Epic Mahabharata. The state is bounded four-fifth by present Bangladesh, where is it is connected with India through one fifth border by the states of Asom and Mizoram, towards the north and eastern border.

Within its small  geographical area , Tripura offers plenty of attractions for the tourists in  the  form  of  magnificent  palaces ( Ujjayanta  Palace and  Kunjaban  Palace at  Agartala  and Neermahal – Lake Palace at Melaghar ),  splendid rock-cut carvings and stone images ( Unakoti near Kailashahar,  Debtamura  near  Amarpur and  Pilak in Belonia  Sub-divisions ),  important temples of   Hindus and  Buddhists  including the famous  Mata Tripureswari temple ( one of the 51  Pithasthans   as   per  Hindu  folklore )  at   Udaipur,   vast    natural  as   well  as  artificial lakes namely Dumboor lake in Gandacherra subdivision, Rudrasagar at Melaghar, Amarsagar, Jagannath Dighi, Kalyan  Sagar, etc. at  Udaipur,  the  beautiful  hill  station  of  Jampui hill bordering  Mizoram,  wild  life  sanctuaries  at  Sepahijala, Gumti,  Rowa  and  Trishna and rich cultural heritage of Tribals, Bengalis and Manipuri communities residing in the state.

Tripuri Language

Tripuri is the language of the community and is mostly found in Khowai, Kailashahar, Sadar, Amarpur sub-divisions. Tripuri is also spoken in the adjoining areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts. The mother tongue of the people is Halam and their dialect is known as Rankhal. Rankhal is said to be an offshoot of Halam. Besides, the dialect of the Tripuri, also known as Kak-Barak, belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of languages. The root of the dialect can be traced from Sino-Tibetan speech family. It is interesting to note that Kak-Barak does not possess any script: it is written using the Bengali script.

History of Tripuri Language

Tripuri is one of the principle languages of Tripura. The Tripuri (Tipra or Tipperah) people are the original inhabitants of the Kingdom of Tripura in North-East India and Bangladesh who through the Royal family of the Debbarmas ruled the Kingdom of Tripura for more than 2000 years, till the kingdom joined the Indian Union in 1949.

The indigenous Tripuri people comprises various hill tribal communities viz., Tipra, Reang, Jamatia, Kaipeng, Noatia, Koloi, Halam, etc. who migrated to this land in successive waves in the ancient past. They grew in isolation and were sometimes subjugated by one another. Each community had its own elementary social and administrative organization starting from the village level and up to the chieftainship of the whole tribe. The tribes enjoy their traditional freedom based on the concept of self-determination. The relation between the king and the subject tribes was as Maharaja (king) of Tripura-Missip or liaison officer Roy of Headman of the tribe – Sardar of chief of the village-the individual. The Tripuri people are considered part of the Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group. Originally they migrated from near the upper courses of the Yangtze kiang and the Hwang Ho rivers in Western China. They had left China long before the Sui dynasty came to power. At the time of migration they were animists. So it may be reasonably assumed that they migrated before 65 AD, the year Buddhism was introduced in China. The common reference to these people as “Kiratas” and “Cinas” in the early Sanskrit texts of India unmistakably indicates that they came down to the Assam valley long before the dawn of Christian era.

Languages in Tripura comprise Bengali and the different dialects of Tripuri. It is remarkable that, languages in Tripura are influenced by Bengali language. It is estimated that about 80% of the people in Tripura speak Bengali. The Chakma language, spoken in Belonia and Sabrum sub-divisions, stands as an exemplar of the influence of Bengali on the languages of Tripura.

The dialect of the Tripuris is known as Kok-Borok. Kok-borok is composed of two words, viz., kok which means “language” and borok means “man”. Thus Kokborokmeans “the language of man” or “the language of the Borok people”. The dialect belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of languages and its root can be traced to Sino-Tibetan speech family. The Kok-Borok dialect has no script of its own and hence it is written in Bengali script.

Occupying a position next to Bengali, Tripuri is spoken in Sadar, Kailashahar, Amarpur and Khowai sub divisions. Tripuri is also spoken in the adjoining areas of Tripura, such as the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Halam is the mother tongue of the people residing in these areas. The dialect spoken by them is Rankhal. Rankhal is said to be an offshoot of Halam.

Tripuri (Kok-Borok) is closely related to the Bodo language and the Dimasa language of neighboring state of Assam. The Garo language is also a related language as spoken in neighboring Bangladesh. Kok-Borok was written in ‘Koloma’. ‘Rajratnakar’, a chronicle of the Tripuri kings, was written using the Koloma script. Kok-Borok was recognized as the official language of Tripura around 1979 AD.

Kokborok has existed in its various forms since at least the 1st century AD, when the historical record of Tripuri Kings began to be written down. The script of Kokborok was called “Koloma”. The Chronicle of the Tripuri Kings were written in a book called the Rajratnakar. This book was originally written down in Kokborok using the Koloma script by Durlobendra Chontai. Later, two Brahmins, Sukreswar and Vaneswar translated it into Sanskrit. The chronicle was again translated into Bengali in the 14th century AD. The chronicle of Tipra in Kokborok and Rajratnakar are no longer available. Kokborok was relegated to a common people’s dialect during the rule of the Tripuri Kings, in contrast to Bengali language, from the period of the 14th century till the 20th century.